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An Impossible Task?

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How do we encourage children at the most intense period of sexual growth and curiosity about sex to moderate their use of internet pornography when almost all children have smartphones? An impossible task you may say. Well undaunted, The Reward Foundation is up for the challenge and has secured an initial award from the Big Lottery Fund’s Investing in Ideas programme. We plan to develop a pilot set of lesson plans for a selection of state schools to test the theory that it can be done. If we only manage to help a few pupils, it will be a good start to changing attitudes and encouraging conversations around it.

Internet pornography rewires the brain in a way totally unlike Playboy-type magazines or erotic DVDs of old. This is news to most parents and teachers who feel uncomfortable about restricting access to what many consider a cultural rite of passage to adulthood. Adults think back to their own experience at that age and how occasionally stumbling upon sexy pictures led to curiosity about experiencing the real deal. Streaming internet pornography videos have a totally different impact on the brain from still photographs or films.

Studies today reveal that not only does internet pornography lead many young users to have less desire for real partners and relationships but creates the need for continued use of pornography as a necessary part of any relationship or encounter they may eventually try. This comes from a need for increasingly more intense stimulation based on their escalation in  pornography use to the extent that a real person alone is not sufficiently arousing. This can cause distress to both parties over time.

Our team has been encouraged by the fact that when we first tried out our “24 hour screen fast” on a group of S6 (17-18 year old) pupils in a local school last year, the headmaster was convinced no one would take up the challenge. It was an impossible task. Happily for us, 14 brave pupils did try and were amazed at the experience. So on this basis we will press ahead. We have noted elsewhere that people are willing to experiment with quitting porn and taking a more measured approach to sexual exploration when they understand how the internet variety can lead to a host of mental and physical problems.

The basis of our lesson plans will be to encourage the children themselves to want to moderate their own use and defy the cleverest of tactics of the internet companies to lure them away from their studies and other important life enhancing activities towards fake rewards with no end point in sight. It can be done.

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